Posted: 10/29/2023 | October 29th, 2023

While I didn’t take my first international trip until after I graduated college (I went to Costa Rica when I was 23), being a college student doesn’t mean you have to skip out on travel. From studying abroad to gap years to spring break trips, there are a lot of ways to travel while in school.

However, students usually don’t have a lot of money which makes affording trips abroad challenging.

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to save for a trip on a budget. One of the best ways to do this is by getting a rewards credit card.

Since students don’t have a credit history and may not have an income yet, it will be hard to get approved for the travel credit cards with the most rewards.

The good news is that banks know this, and many have created cards specifically designed for students. These are easier to get approved for (banks don’t expect you to have a credit history as a student), so that you can start building credit and using those rewards to help you travel for cheap!

Here’s my list of the best credit cards for students:

 

MY TOP PICK: Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

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Capital One has some of the best travel credit cards out there, and they offer several fantastic student options too. This card has several bonus categories in which you can earn even more for your purchases, including 3% cash back on dining and grocery purchases, and a stellar 10% cash back on Uber and Uber Eats. It also has no foreign transaction fees, no annual fee, and even offers travel accident insurance. This is a really comprehensive student card and my top pick.

Here’s a look at the main benefits of the card:

  • A one-time $50 USD cash bonus once you spend $100 USD on purchases within three months
  • 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services, and grocery stores
  • 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases
  • 10% cash back on purchases on Uber and Uber Eats
  • Uber One monthly membership fee covered through November 14, 2024
  • Travel accident insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

Learn more

 
If you want a more straightforward card, Capital One also offers the card_name. It offers nearly all the same benefits, except instead of the different bonus categories, you’ll get an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. The Quicksilver also comes in a secured version if you can’t get approved for an unsecured card.

 

Bank of America Travel Rewards Student Credit Card

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If you’re looking for something simple and easy to use, this is it. This card offers an unlimited 1.5 points earned per dollar spent, as well as the biggest signup bonus out of any card designed for students. The 25,000 bonus points that you can earn by spending $1,000 USD in the first 90 days (that’s roughly $333 USD per month) can be converted into $250 USD worth of travel/dining when wiped from your statement as a credit.

With this card, you’ll get:

  • 25,000 Online Bonus Points after making $1,000 USD in purchases in the first 90 days
  • Unlimited 1.5 points per $1 USD spent on all purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

Learn more

 

Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card

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The only secured credit card on this list, the Chime Credit Builder, issued by Stride Bank, works like a prepaid debit card. While it’s not marketed specifically toward students, it’s for people who want to build credit, which is exactly what you’re trying to do as a student.

The downsides are that there’s no welcome bonus and you must open a Chime checking account to use the card (though as a student, you may be opening your first account anyway). Unlike most secured cards, there’s also no set credit limit, which you create yourself with the money you deposit into your Chime checking account (which you then use to pay off your balance).

With this card, you’ll get:

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No interest charges
  • No minimum security deposit required
  • No credit check (so there’s no impact on your current score)
  • The ability to set your own credit limit
  • An easy-to-use app to manage your account and card

Learn more

 

Tips for Getting a Credit Card as a Student

Getting your first card can be a bit intimidating as you may not know how credit cards work. But it doesn’t have to be.

Using credit cards responsibly starts with building healthy habits. As long as you pay off your entire balance each month, your regular purchases can work for you, earning rewards that can be used for future travel.

It’s a good idea to start building credit as soon as you can, not only to reap the benefits of rewards cards but also to establish a lengthy credit history that can help you in other aspects of life. At some point in the future, you may want to buy a house, lease a car, apply for a business loan, or do other activities that require a credit check. (Some apartments and even some jobs require it.) So the earlier you start building a credit history, the better.

Certain credit cards are specifically designed for students, with an easier approval process that requires no credit history and lower spending limits that are in line with the limited (or nonexistent) income of a student.

Requirements for student cards may include:

  • Proof of enrollment
  • If under 21, an income source (e.g., part-time job, scholarship, or grant)
  • A minimum age of 18
  • A Social Security number
  • US citizenship or permanent residency

Note: Student cards are designed for people with no credit. If you’re rebuilding your credit, check out the best credit cards for those with bad credit.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Cards for Students

How do I get a credit card as a student?
Getting a credit card can be as simple as applying for cards geared towards students, like those listed above. Many even offer a pre-approval process, meaning you can see if you’ll be approved without having an impact on your score. You can also contact your local bank or credit union for information, as they may have a card for you as well.

Can I get a credit card if I’m a full-time student?
Yes! The cards above (along with many others) are geared toward students, even if you’re studying full-time.

At what age can students get a credit card?
Students can start applying for credit cards at the age of 18, though requirements can make it difficult to be approved (you’ll have to prove independent income). Your best option for building credit if you’re between the ages of 18 and 21 is to get either a secured credit card or a student credit card. You can also become an authorized user on someone else’s card.

After age 21, restrictions fall away, and it becomes easier to get a regular, unsecured credit card.

Can I get a credit card as a student with no income?
If you’re under 21, you’ll have to prove independent income. However, depending on the card issuer, they may accept student loans, grants, or scholarships as proof of income. If you have someone who can co-sign for you, some credit card issuers may allow a co-signer’s income to count toward approval.

What happens to my student card when I graduate?
Most student credit cards have a non-student version. In many cases, when you graduate, your account, along with its limits and history, will simply be converted to that option. In other cases, you’ll want to upgrade or open a new account. But even if you open other cards and don’t use that account as much, you’ll want to keep it open to maintain the length of your credit history.

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Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to wait until you graduate college to start building a credit history and earning rewards. Not only will a card help you earn cheap (or free) travel, but you’ll learn how credit cards work and establish healthy financial habits that will help you throughout your life!

 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Want to Travel for Free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.

Need Help Finding Activities for Your Trip?
Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace where you can find cool walking tours, fun excursions, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more.

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.



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